Tag Archives: camp tradition

Secret Summer Camp Chant


The informant’s mother used to say this phrase as a playful thing to her children. While my informant generally liked this chant for its nostalgiac purposes, her mother used it in a variety of ways at her childhood summer camp. Though I lacked the mind to gather where her mother was from, my informant is originally from California.


In summer camp, my informant says her mom learned to use the chant as a sort of password in order to get into other campers’ cabins, sit with people during meals, and participate in activities. That being said, I was able to record it during an interview for folklore collection.

Main piece:



I’m sure that my informant has remembered this piece her whole life because it has been reminiscent of her childhood (and because it sounds good rolling off the tongue), but the purpose it served at her mother’s summer camp allows us, as folklorists, to take a deeper look into the social lives of children. In acting as a password as a sort of key to participating in different social settings, the phrase likely created an ingroup and an outgroup which would have contributed to the children’s social hierarchy. It’s important to note, though, that my informant told me kids at this summer camp would all eventually learn the chant–after a few days of confusion followed by some practice. Thus, it must not have simply been a tool for exclusion, but a right of passage into becoming a recognized camp member.

Cool and Creamy


My informant is a 20 year old student at the University of Southern California (USC). This conversation took place one night at Cafe 84, a place where many students at USC go to study at night. The informant and I sat at a table with two other people, and we were in an open space where there was a lot of background noise. In this account, he talks about a tradition that a student-run philanthropy (that holds a summer camp every year for the LAUSD community) does every year at our Spring Retreat called “Cool and Creamy”. Occasionally, one other person at our table, who is also a member of the organization,  interjected with her own comments. My informant learned this folklore just by attending Spring Retreat and watching counselors of past generations perform it. This is a transcription of his folklore, where he is identified as N, the girl that interjects is identified as L, and I am identified as K.



N: Okay, so “Cool and Creamy” is this voluntary tradition. It’s when two members, at Spring Retreat, perform this act in front of everyone as a part of the variety show, which is like a talent show, and they get, um, whipped cream, and they kind of sexualize it in a way… [laughs]

L: What, no not really!


(In the section directly below, when N speaks, I’ve recreated “Cool and Creamy” in the dialogue form that it’s actually performed, and the recreation is based off of my informant’s description. “Cool and Creamy” is essentially a ritualistic skit that involves a call and response between two people. Each person is given a bottle of canned whipped cream, and the goal of the tradition is essentially to put the whipped cream on the other person’s body parts until the can runs out. The names of the two people in here will be “A” and “B”.)


N: Yeah they sexualize, they totally sexualize “Cool and Creamy”! Yeah, yeah! They do!

      It goes like this:

A: Heyyyyyy B!

B: Heyyyyyy A!

      And then A goes like, “Do you like Cool and Creamy?” on a certain body part…. Like:

A: Do  YOU like Cool and Creamy on your elbows?

      And then B goes:

B: I LOVE Cool and Creamy on my elbows!

      And then A would spray the whipped cream on B’s elbows. And then it basically goes back and forth for like another five minutes, and it’s just kind of like a tradition. It’s um, like borderline funny. It’s almost It’s almost funny, mostly like, it’s mostly cause like we do it, but not funny because it’s funny.

K: How do you get chosen to do it?

N: Um, I think it’s just mostly older members… I don’t think people get selected to do it. But like, it’s something that like we’re guaranteed it’s going to show up at every single variety show.

K: Wait so then how do they pick who has to do it?

N: I think like two people just volunteer, like oh, which is a totally voluntarily process…. Yeah, people just volunteer… for some reason…

L: [laughs]

K: Why do people do it?

N: They do it because it’s tradition, you know? Sometimes you just gotta do it. Sometimes you just gotta do a little Cool and Creamy.

K: How did you learn this tradition?

N: How did I learn? They learn it from like past generations, so like, they’ll see that like the year before two counselors will do Cool and Creamy and then they’ll be like “Hey, this year we should do Cool and Creamy,” and then they’re like “Okay, let’s do Cool and Creamy” [laughs].

K: Why do people continue to do this?

N: Literally just because it’s tradition, it’s like literally just a weird thing that we do and it’s like “Okay, it’s weird, so we wanna just keep doing it every year… Forever.”



This folklore is yet another example of a tradition that serves as a bonding experience. It’s not just the performers that become closer and more integrated into the organization; the camp counselors that simply just watch it happen also become a part of the “family.” As someone that is also a camp counselor in this organization, what’s particularly interesting to me about this tradition is it’s potential double reading. As my informant said, the tradition itself is not funny, but because it has sexual overtones (and just from the mere fact that we continue to do it every year) is what makes it funny. “Cool and Creamy” is fun because it’s weird and quirky, making is special to the organization, but the sexualization of the tradition also serves an ironic purpose that creates greater bonding potential. For example, the work that camp counselors do are meant to be very pure and good-intentioned, and when we’re around the kids it’s completely inappropriate to make any jokes that are foul or sex-related.

When we’re around the kids, we’re seen as leaders, role models, and adults, but this means that we have to keep our identity as college students hidden. Therefore, at Spring Retreat, when it’s only camp counselors with no kids around, we are given a chance to meld our camp counselor identities together with our college student identities, and thus comes the result of sexualizing things that, in a kids eyes, would just be seen as pure fun or just a few counselors messing around. Furthermore, “Cool and Creamy” is fun because it’s not explicitly dirty, but it has plausible deniability as a sexual joke. We can even see that my informant debated with L on whether or not the tradition is actually sexualized or if the sexualized interpretation is a way to trick counselors into making them feel bad for having a dirty mind.

“Cool and Creamy” is a perfect example of camp folklore being used to bond counselors together before summer camp happens, making counselors feel much closer so that, when summer camp comes around, everyone works together much more as a collective group. Because relationships are closer and everyone has had this shared experience, communication during camp becomes much easier. Counselors are much more comfortable around each other, thus making a much more successful summer camp than what would be without having this shared experience.


Imagine you are in a Brick Room


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.”

The Blue Kerchief Ceremony

At camp, we have this thing called the BK Ceremony,  for “Blue Kerchief”. It’s on the third day of the term, I think it’s the third day, on a Sunday, and what it is is we come up with this thing called, “The Code of Living”.  So for that what we do is we come up with words that we want to live by- words like “genuine”, “compassion”, “brave”, “indelible”. You know how I want to get that tattoo of “indelible”? That’s from camp, it was in our Code.

So, yeah, we decide as a unit what we want the Code to be. So on the first Sunday we all go to the Buddy Ring, which is a nook in between these mountains and we sing all these songs. I think they change every year, they’re not set in stone.

And then the counselors present the BKs to the campers. So it’s when you wear this kerchief, the Blue Kerchief, you’re living by the Code. And if you break the Code, you get your Kerchief taken away.

What happens if you get it taken away?

Well then you don’t get to wear it to Chapel and everyone can see you and knows you broke the code. (She laughs).

So the ceremony is they tie the BKs in this special knot, a friendship knot… (to other friend listening and laughing) Shut up!  And yeah, the counselors put them over us and give us a hug. And then as cabins, we got up as cabins and then we all get in a huddle, you know like a sports huddle, and then the counselors pump us up for the term and then we sit down again.

Can you tell me more about the camp?

Yeah, so the BK ceremony is by unit and there are 60 girls or guys per unit, 4 units of boys and 4 units of girls. The units are by age and you can be 8-17 at Camp Cheley. It’s in Colorado. It’s in Estes Park, voted number one small town in America!

When did it start?

I have no idea. Camp was founded in 1921, so probably around then.

Why has it kept going all these years?

Probably because it’s a beautiful ceremony, and the Code of Living is super important, and it’s you know, a physical reminder of it.

Context of the Performance:

The informant told her camp rituals to a table of our friends during Monday night dinner. We knew she had gone to camp, because she has talked about it before, but this is the first time I ever asked her in depth questions, which she was very excited to share. The informant is very passionate about her camp and plans to work there this summer.

My thoughts on the piece:

It was interesting to see how excited the informant was to explain her camp experience, another example of the distinction between being inside the group verses outside of it. She was defensive when another person listening laughed at part of the ritual, which shows how much she believes in the sacredness of these traditions.

It also is interesting how the shame of having your kerchief taken away, which is largely symbolic, is enough to keep these kids living by the code.

Summer Camp Customs and Lore: The Announcements Song

Informant: “So I went to camp cedars every summer. The weekend after fathers day since the time I was about eleven until um… maybe about fifteen or so was the year I decided that I should be a camp counselor at camp cedars. Great time. I spent the whole summer out there, I was actually going to go to a camp-out one week, uh when the rest of my troop was, but I decided it would be more fun just working again for that week. It was a very enjoyable time. One of the… I guess, every day for every meal of the day, there would be a couple of announcements that um the staff would have to share with all of the campers, but they couldn’t say that. ‘Announcements’ was a bad word at camp cedars. It’s been a bad word as long as anyone has known. It’s such a bad word that the moment anyone says the word announcement no matter who it is or what context, they are immediately surrounded by all of the staff members in the area and this happened about once a week, sometimes more, um one time three days in a row the same guy uttered it while giving the announcements. So, uh when someone said announcements they were ridiculed for the next five minutes or so and um everyone else sang the announcements song. Which um I don’t remember all of the verses but it started something like:

(to the tune of the farmer in the dell)

Announcements, announcements, annoouuuncements!

A wonderful way to die, a wonderful way to die

A wonderful way to start the day, a wonderful way to die!

Announcements, announcements, annoouuncements!



We sold our cow

We sold our cow

We have no use

For your bull now.


(to the tune of the more we get together)

Have you ever seen a windbag, a windbag, a windbag?

Have you ever seen a windbag? well there’s one right now.

Blows this way and that way and this way and that way

Have you ever seen a windbag? well there’s one right now.


(To the tune of London bridge is falling down)

Words of wisdom, words of wisdom,

Here they come, here they come:

More words of wisdom, more words of wisdom:

Dumb dumb dumb, dumb dumb dumb


The informant, a Caucasian male, was born in Spokane, Washington and then moved to Omaha. He is currently a student at USC and studies computer science.

The informant learned the song when he was about eleven years old “the first time we went to camp cedars so the very first summer.”Camp Cedars is a Boy Scout summer camp. The informant attended the camp for about five or six years and was a counselor for one year. As a camper, he didn’t really worry about saying the taboo word because it was usually just the staff that ended up saying it when giving announcements. In addition, the informant “was never really giving announcements, so I never had to worry about saying the word.” Because announcements were a daily thing, they usually had to be referred to as A-words or some other euphemism.

The informant felt that the traditions were around to raise morale, keep the counselors from getting bored, and build a rapport between all of the members of the camp. The informant said that there were “many, many, many traditions” at this camp. Additionally, these traditions were just a fun thing.

He first learned the words of the song from watching the counselors perform the song; he especially recalls this song because he thought, “it was ridiculous and it happened all the time.” The informant said “I encountered it probably over a dozen times being a camper plus the summer when I worked there maybe another dozen or two times, so very repeated and it’s a lot of fun too – being the staffer and being the one who is singing the song, making fun of whoever happened to inadvertently say the word or intentionally… like I’m sure the guy who said it three times in a row was not entirely accidental”

In a way, this song and folk tradition appears to be a parody of tabooistic discourse because the camp tradition turned an ordinary word into something taboo, forcing camp members to find euphemisms for an otherwise innocuous word.