Tag Archives: summer camp

Kajabe Cancan

Informant: So I learned this game as a camper at the summer camp at Hume Lake it was called Kajabe Cancan. It was a game that we were never really taught to play, but it is very easy to figure out and it was a huge thing at this camp. Basically there’s a bunch of people, they usually do it by gender because it is so violent. Everyone stands in a circle, and they hold a piece of rope that is like a foot long between everyone. Inside the circle there is usually like 2-3 trashcans, like the big grey ones. The goal of the game is to be the last one standing. To get people out you had to make people let go of one of their ropes, or hit the trash can with any piece of their body. So basically, you are trying to throw around the person next to you to either rip the rope from their hand or toss them into the middle. It is a great forearm workout, haha. It is such a big thing at this camp that they have a night dedicated to it, like there’s a championship round. They form small groups and the winners of each group play a championship round, and whoever wins gets to sign a Golden trashcan. 

Interviewer: Did you ever win?

Informant: No, I got close though, haha. I made it to the championship round but got out pretty early. 

Interviewer: What happens when you get out?

Informant: Nothing really, you just sit out and join the people watching. You let your hands rest. It gets intense, some people got injured. 

Interviewer: What did this game mean to you?

Informant: Everyone always looked forward to it, it was always a really fun night. This was a church camp, so a lot of churches would go to this camp at once. People would train their campers before going to play because winning was like a huge deal. 

Background

My informant is a good friend and housemate of mine from USC and is a senior at the University of Southern California majoring in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention with a minor in Health Care Studies from San Dimas, CA. She says that a lot of her mannerisms and sayings come from growing up in San Dimas which she describes as being a very small town outside of Los Angeles that feels more midwest than the West coast. She attended summer camps throughout most of her life, starting as a camper and becoming a counselor in high school. 

Context

During our interview the informant let me know about the different games and experiences she had going to many camps growing up as both a camper and a counselor. One of the games that was brought up was Kajabe Cancan. 

Analysis

This game has a very competitive and physical nature, and I believe that it is fairly easy to play as you need participants, trashcans, and pieces of rope. In the context of the church, this folk game potentially served as a mini competition of all of the different churches who combined at this specific camp, gaining pride or brownie points if one of their campers won the championship. 

Summer Camp Taps Tradition

Main Piece:

BO, a junior at USC, shared this story from a Musician Summer Camp he attended. He says, “Like at 10PM everynight we would all have to be in bed in our cabins while they play a military trumpet song called Taps. Everyone was supposed to be extremely quiet and if you made any noise you’d get in trouble. The idea was it was supposed to give everyone in the whole camp a few minutes of silence to reflect on their day.”

Context:

BO is a junior at USC. He attended this music summer camp from ages 12 to 18 and was familiar with lots of its traditions. This piece was taken during a text chat with BO.

Thoughts:

This tradition seems to reflect the discipline that they would teach at the camp. BO explained how they would train a lot during this musician camp, and discipline is a big part of this training. Playing Taps, a military song which is typically played during solemn times, shows how this moment at the end of their day is a time for them to reflect. The formal nature of it also shows how they are training their musicians to be disciplined, and self reflection is important to that.

Imagine you are in a Brick Room

Text:

Informant (R): I also used to do a bunch of riddles and stuff, like while hiking at summer camp, you know?

Collector (J): yeah, yeah, that was fun!

R: My favorite was the brick room one.

J: oh yeah, that one messed with me as a kid, I felt so dumb because I couldn’t figure it out.

R: I mean, it was hard!

J: How did it go again?

R: Ok, so imagine you are trapped in a solid brick room, with no windows, no doors, nothing. You have a single piece of rope and a paper clip and a note that says you must escape the room or you’ll die. How do you get out?

J: I mean, I know the answer, but can you say it?

R: Yeah, so I said imagine you’re in the room. Stop imagining.

Context: Both R and J went to summer camp together. They were recalling old games and riddles for the sake of this collection. R learned this riddle from a camp counselor who repeated this riddle while hiking with younger campers.

Analysis: As other riddles are, this riddle contains insider information for those who know the answer to the riddle. Those who “play the game” of trying to solve it are typically misguided and attempt to find ways out of the room with the rope or other tools. Depending on the performance, the “clues” to escape change, keeping those attempting to solve the riddle on their toes. However, those who know the riddle are quick to remember the keyword “imagine.”

“Click Clack”

The following is a scary story told to me by my friend Claire, who learned it at a summer camp where they have been a counselor for a few years.

“I’ll start at the beginning, which is World War One. In Virginia, there was this family and they had, y’know, wife, husband, son, daughter. And they were a family of farmers–they were like, subsistence farmers; they were not incredibly wealthy at all. And so, when World War One happened, the husband and the son both went to the war…And so, y’know, the war was a big toll on them. And the father and the son both came back alive, but um…the father came back a little off. And a big part of that was the fact that he’d had an accident, and he had had to have both of his legs amputated above the knee. So he um, was in low spirits, and he became incredibly antisocial. He would just stay up in his room, he eventually kind of stopped coming down for meals…

So then many years later, um, World War Two happened and then the son had to leave again, and the family had to give away all of their metal. But um, before that happened, in between the wars, the husband had taken two tin cans, and he had taken the wrapping off of them–the labels off of them–and he had stuck the cans to the stumps of his legs. And so um…then fast forward again, so the son is gone now and the family has had to give their steel to the war, um, to the army, so they can melt it down to make weapons and whatnot. So they had to give away their, um, their light fixtures and the rest of their cans and their, um, scissors and their nail clippers and y’know, some silverware, stuff like that.

And so um…the husband all this time had been falling sort of into a deeper reverie. And the only big change was that he moved, um, into the living room. And so he would sit in the middle of the living room now instead of in his bedroom, ’cause y’know, he and his wife shared a bedroom and she was kinda getting creeped out by him. And what he would do is he would just sit in the chair and he wouldn’t really look at anything, he wouldn’t say anything, he would just sit there in silence and then whenever somebody came into the room he would just start staring at them without saying anything…And so, y’know, since they had to give away their metal, they had to get rid of their scissors and their nail clippers, and the wife and the daughter, they were, y’know, in sane states of mind, so they found ways to remain hygienic. But the uh, the husband, his hair started to grow very long and it would mat. And he had a thick beard and he had really long hair and it was scraggly and messy and he wouldn’t ever clean himself or–more importantly–he wouldn’t cut his nails or do anything about his nails, so they grew incredibly long. And um, eventually he actually started moving around a little more but um, he would get out of his chair, and he started to train himself to walk around. But at first it was very difficult because again, he only had tin cans on his leg stumps, above his knees. So he would walk around and it would sound like the click clack of his fingernails against the hardwood floor, and then a long drag of his legs behind him…Um, but he still would not speak to the family, he still didn’t say anything, and he still let all of his hair and all of his beard and all of his nails grow out incredibly long and he was slowly day by day starting to look less and less human. And um, then he started to change his behavior even more, and now he could get around pretty well on his just his hands and it was just a really fast click clack click clack click clack throughout the house, and he began to move away from the living room, but in a very strange way because he would only ever move in the shadows…And what he would do was, he would follow someone around, and they would just hear a slight click clack click clack click clack and any time they turned around it would stop. And they would keep walking and then…he would jump out at them! He would just leap from the shadows and surprise them.

But um, he never really did anything until the family got a notice from the government that they were going to build a marine base on their land! So, they had to organize to move. And this was now, World War Two was over and the son is back, and so the whole family is back together, and he’s obviously very disheartened to see, y’know, what his father has turned into. And so when the government marine base was about to, y’know, start and they seized this family’s land, and um…it came down to the night before they [were supposed to] move, and then in the morning there was nobody leaving the house. And um, the construction company and the project manager and everyone, they they came to the house and they came prepared to tell these people like, ‘you have to move out right now,’ prepared to help them move out their furniture. But they entered the house and it was a massacre. And there was blood everywhere and the wife the daughter and the son had all been murdered and they had just been mauled, they had been maimed, they had been cut into pieces. There were like, splashes of blood everywhere, it was incredibly gruesome. And there was no sign of the husband.

So, y’know, after this terror they still had to go along with the project. So they built the marine base, which is now what is the Quantico marine base in uh, very near Prince William Forest Park…um, so for the Marine Base, y’know, they had to train marines obviously. And something that in the park you can do is you go out and there are these orienteering posts. And orienteering, for those at home who don’t know, is using just a map and compass to find your way from a point A to a point B…And so this was really good training for the marines, but what they would do is they would do it at night, um, to make it harder. So they would send these people out and they wouldn’t always come back. And sometimes those who did come back would tell stories of things they saw in the darkness like huge, huge abnormal shapes and really incredibly fast footsteps, and some who came back would come back with long slashes on their face and they would say–if they could even say anything about their experience–they would say simply that they had been out there at night and then out of nowhere something had jumped out at them and tried to kill them. And it had cut long claw marks all over them. And um, it was a miracle that those men survived.

So um, y’know, eventually Prince William Forest Park was built. And there was, y’know, tourism that was established there. And what they do is they have these historical cabins that people can stay in and so, um, one night there was a family that was going to uh, y’know, just stay for a weekend in the park…And so this family, they were staying in the cabin and it was nice. They, y’know, unpacked on a Saturday evening, it was um, the Fall so the sun was beginning to set really early, but it was nice afternoon light, y’know, they were getting their sleeping bags, fixing up a little dinner and um, it fell dark very quickly. And so, as they were wrapping up for dinner sitting around the little fireplace, they started to hear something out on the porch. Um, and it sounded like a little animal maybe, some very light, very quick little scratches. And then they stopped their conversation, they listened, and a few seconds after the scratching was silent again. And they would, y’know, start talking again. And it became slightly more defined of a noise and they could identify it as a sort of click clack click clack click clack as if something was walking back and forth on their porch. And so they stop their conversation again, they listen harder, y’know, trying to figure out what is this animal out there. And the click clack stops. And then they wait a few minutes, and just as they’re about to start their conversation again, the noise begins again before they even start talking. And now it’s faster, it’s more erratic, and um, the wife, y’know, the mother of the family, she turns to her husband and she goes like, ‘honey, you should go see what that is, even if it’s a raccoon we should, y’know, at least scare it away so it doesn’t come in here and eat all our food at night.’ And the husband, of course, he gets up and he goes over and he goes to the door and the noise is getting louder as he’s approaching the door. And um, just as he puts his hand on the doorknob it stops. And he looks out the window, but it’s pitch black, he doesn’t really see anything. So he turns the doorknob and he opens the door…and there was Click Clack!”

The summer camp where Claire learned this legend is held partly in Prince William Forest Park, so it is directly connected to the camp’s location, and could serve as a cautionary tale for campers who want to stray into the woods. Claire has told me various different versions of the story, involving different characters’ run ins with “Click Clack.” I also vaguely remember a friend telling me a version of it when I was a kid, but it had no connection to Prince William Forest or Quantico.

“Vine and Fig Tree”

My friend Razi went to a Quaker summer camp in Virginia called Shiloh Quaker Camp for several years as a kid. She learned a number of folk songs with Quaker themes as a camper there. The following is a recording of Razi singing a song called “Vine and Fig Tree,” which she learned at camp and often sings, along with the lyrics:

And everyone ‘neath their vine and fig tree
Shall live in peace and unafraid
And everyone ‘neath their vine and fig tree
Shall live in peace and unafraid

And into ploughshares turn their swords
Nations shall learn war no more
And into ploughshares turn their swords
Nations shall learn war no more

With love to thy neighbor
And love to the spirit of all light
With love to thy neighbor
And love to the spirit of all light

This song embraces pacifism from a Quaker perspective, but its message can be appreciated by any pacifist. Quakerism is a particularly open religion in terms of its acceptance of other religions, so songs that come out of the tradition can often be sung with the same conviction by people who have to particular affiliation with the religion. Razi is Jewish and agnostic, but she agrees with many of the values taught at Quaker camp, so songs like this one have stuck with her.

“Love the Life You Live”

My friend Razi went to a Quaker summer camp in Virginia called Shiloh Quaker Camp for several years as a kid. She learned a number of folk songs with Quaker themes as a camper there. The following is a recording of Razi singing one of these songs, along with the lyrics. She doesn’t remember what the song is called, so I’m referring to it by the first line.

Love the life you live with all your
Heart and all your soul and all your
Mind and love all human-
Kind as you would (clap) love yourself!

Love the life you
Live with all your
Heart and all your
Soul and mind to (clap) let your love flow!

We’ve got all our lives to live
We’ve got all our hearts to give
We’ve got love inside our souls
And it will make us whole!

This song celebrates Quaker values that non-Quakers can appreciate as well. It is optimistic and cheerful, and makes no specific reference to God or religion, so it can be embraced as a secular folk song. Quakerism is a particularly open religion in terms of its acceptance of other religions, so songs that come out of the tradition can often be sung with the same conviction by people who have to particular affiliation with the religion. Razi is Jewish and agnostic, but she agrees with many of the values taught at Quaker camp, so songs like this one have stuck with her.

“George Fox”

My friend Razi went to a Quaker summer camp in Virginia called Shiloh Quaker Camp for several years as a kid. She learned a number of folk songs with Quaker themes as a camper there. The following is a recording of Razi singing a song about George Fox, one of the founders of Quakerism, which she learned at camp and often sings, along with the lyrics:

There’s a light that was shining in the heart of man
It’s a light that was shining when the world began
There’s a light that is shining in the Turk and the Jew
There’s a light that is shining friend in me and in you (hey)

Walk in the light wherever you may be
Why don’t you walk in the light wherever you may be?
“In my old leather britches and my shaggy, shaggy locks,
I am walking in the glory of the light,” said Fox.

“There’s a bell and a steeple and a book and a key
That will bind him forever but you can’t,” said he,
“For the book it will perish and the steeple will fall
But the light will be shining at the end of it all” (hey)

Walk in the light wherever you may be
Why don’t you walk in the light wherever you may be?
“In my old leather britches and my shaggy shaggy locks,
I am walking in the glory of the light,” said Fox.

This song specifically celebrates the Quaker belief of the “inner light” or “light of God,” but its morals can be embraced by non-Quakers as well. Quakerism is a particularly open religion in terms of its acceptance of other religions, so songs that come out of the tradition can often be sung with the same conviction by people who have to particular affiliation with the religion. Razi is Jewish and agnostic, but she agrees with many of the values taught at Quaker camp, so songs like this one have stuck with her.

The Drop Bears of Camp Orkila

Artist's rendition of a drop bear

Artists rendition of a drop bear

The summer camp councilor describes the legend of the Drop Bears at Camp Orkila, a traditional overnight summer camp on Orcus Island, WA.

When I was in middle school I went to Camp Orkila three summers. And the second time I was there, we had this councilor called Jim who had me completely convinced that drop bears are real.

Drop bears are a dangerous cousin of the koala bear. Jim described them as looking like koalas except with razor-sharp teeth. They live in trees and at night they drop onto your head, knocking up unconscious. Then they eat you. And he wore this skate helmet at night for protection. He warned us not to leave the cabins at night without a flashlight and he said even with a flashlight we still might be eaten. 

The source explained that the story was that the bears had been brought to the island by the Seattle Zoo in the 1930s after the zoo couldn’t contain them. The helmet is what convinced the source that the councilor wasn’t lying. After all, why would he bring a helmet and wear it every night if the threat wasn’t real.

All the other boys in our cabin didn’t believe Jim at all. They knew he was B.S.ing them but I totally bought it and I was really convinced and I would argue with them about it.

Well long story short, last summer I was the lead Grey Wolves councilor at Orkila—councilor for boys aged ten to thirteenand I brought my bicycle helmet and I told them all about drop bears.

Did they believe you?

[laughs] Well… they said that they did not but I know I scared some of them.

From internet research, it’s clear that drop bears are usually are typically an Australian story. Typically, Australians tell foreigners about drop bears as a prank. The drop bears at Camp Orkila function exactly the same way. The camp councilors and experienced campers are in on the joke and they try to trick newcomers. Because original camp councilor brought a helmet with him a prop, it’s possible that he heard about drop bears on the internet or elsewhere and planned to bring it to Camp Orikila. The camp is an ideal place to spread folklore of this kind because the campers are away from home in an unfamiliar place without access to cell service or the internet, making them much more likely to believe. As with other pranks, the drop bears story at Orkila can also serve as an initiation, or a mild hazing of newcomers.

https://australianmuseum.net.au/drop-bear

Jewish Day Camp Traditions and Songs

The informant is from New York City and told me of his summer camp experience.

“Okay so I went to a Jewish Day Camp, so like you’d go, everyday you’d go to a bunch of different bus stops and then you go to the campground and do whatever camp shit you’d do and then come back like, so it was a Jewish camp and we celebrated Shabbat, and we even like one of the activities would be like, so every friday you’d celebrate Shabbat and then alongside the other activities like archery, ceramics, we would sing Jewish songs, so there’s like um, oh man, oh there’s “who knows one” and it’s like, i think it goes up to twelve and there’s like different hebrew or like old testament things like, or like, definitely like “nine” is the months of a -, I don’t remember but it’s like “Who knows one?” “I know one!” “one is the da-da-da-da-da-duh” “who knows two? I know two! Two is the da-da-da-da-da-duh.” And I know like one of them is like, twelve is the tribes of Israel, um, I think nine for whatever reason is the months a woman is pregnant? Um, uh, and just like seven is like the days of the week that god made, and all these other Jewish songs of like um, wait ok, so there’s who knows one, and there’s like, uh, I don’t remember anymore. But like the main part about the songs that’s pretty funny is that like seventy-five, no maybe like two-thirds of the camp were like black and hispanic, and were like not Jewish, because it was like, a somewhat cheap day camp in, like Manhattan, and they had a lot of bus stops in like Harlem, so like we made these black and hispanic kids eat Challah and drink grape juice and like sing these Jewish songs, and they were like kinda into it, none of them were like, “why are we doing this?” all of them were like “okay””

Analysis:

What is most interesting is that the songs were of religious connotation, but that many of those who attended the camp were not of that religion (Jewish). So they were learning all these songs and stories that did not directly affect them at all, opening up Jewish ceremonies to the wider world. It is also interesting to see how these “children’s songs” deal with adult themes such as pregnancy, which as a child did not really comprehend until much later.

Gigolo

*Note: Taylor is a member of the student organization USC Troy Camp, a group that mentors/tutors students in the South Central L.A. area and raises funds during the year to send 200 elementary schoolchildren from South L.A. to a week-long summer camp in Idyllwild, CA. This week-long camp is completely run by the counselors, and through the year many legends and traditions have developed that are upheld/told each year at camp, carried on by newer counselors as older ones graduate. Because I am also a member of Troy Camp, she didn’t provide any context for this, so I figured I’d do so to minimize confusion. This is a description of one of our many camp songs – this one’s called “Gigolo.”

The informant learned Gigolo when she first joined Troy Camp as a freshman. Older members either teach it to new members directly or just kind of throw them into it because it’s a call-and-response song. Generally, one person will call to another and that person will eventually show the group “how they gigolo,” and the rest of the group will chant. At the end of the song (which can happen after two people or 20 people do their individual gigolos), the person who just gigolo’d will call out all of Troy Camp instead of an individual, and then there is a longer chant that the whole group sings, with accompanying hand motions. The informant and I walked through the song together.

INFORMANT: Hey Jules!

COLLECTOR (myself): Hey what?

INFORMANT: Are you ready?

COLLECTOR: For what?

INFORMANT: To gig (pronounced jig)!

COLLECTOR: Gig what?

INFORMANT: -alo!

COLLECTOR: Ohhhhhhhhhh. My hands are high [raises hands], my feet are low [point to feet] and this is how I gigolo [do a little dance]!

WHOLE GROUP: Her hands are high [raise hands], her feet are low [point to feet] and this is how I gigolo [mimic dance]. Gig… alo, gig- gig, alo- what what? Gig… alo, gig- gig alo!

Then the person who just did the dance calls out someone else, and the song repeats. Eventually…

INFORMANT: Hey Troy Camp!

WHOLE GROUP: Hey what?

INFORMANT: Are you ready?

WHOLE GROUP: For what?

INFORMANT: To gig!

WHOLE GROUP: Gig what?

INFORMANT: -alo!

WHOLE GROUP: Ohhhh! Bang, bang, choo choo train / wind me up and I’ll do my thing / No Reese’s Pieces, no buttercups / You mess with me I’ll mess you up / My back aches, my belt’s too tight / My hips shake from the left to the right / Left, right, left right left right / I turn around, I touch the ground / I get back up, I break it down / My hands are high my feet are low and this is how I gigolo! [group dances]

 

Thoughts: Summer camps are known for having different variations of the same songs, and I can personally attest to that in this case. I went to a different summer camp as a kid, and we also sang gigolo, with a couple small alterations (alo alo instead of alo what what, hands are low instead of feet are low). We also didn’t have the group chant bang bang choo choo train part, though something along those lines did comprise a whole separate camp song we sang! “Bang Bang Choo Choo Train” is also used in cheer camps or by cheerleaders as a cheer.

Camp songs are the perfect example of variants – each camp has a very distinct, concentrated culture, and while the general attributes of the song remain the same, little pieces are different and/or specific to the particular camp at which they’re being sung, just like stories or riddles from different countries have the same general framework but vary in their details. These songs have to have started somewhere, so it makes one wonder how they spread from camp to camp, and where exactly they originated.

Gigolo in particular is a great camp song because it allows the group to learn different group members’ names, and lets everyone interact both between individuals and as a greater group/community.