Tag Archives: camp

Duck Girl Song

[The subject is CB. Her words are bolded, mine are not.]

Context: CB is one of my friends, and a sophomore student in college. Both of her parents are lawyers in the military, so she was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, but has also lived in Germany, Kansas, and Oregon. The following is a song that she learned when she was nine or ten years old from an American Girl Scout camp in Germany called Camp Lachenwald, which translates to “laughing woods.”

CB:
I’m an old duck rover from out in Montana
Round up them duckies and drive ‘em along
To a flooded corral where we bulldog and brand ‘em
Mosey on home just a-singin’ this song

Singin’ quack quack yippee-yay
Quack quack yippee-yo
Get along, little duckies
Get along real slow
It’s dirty and smelly and really don’t pay
But I’ll be a duck girl ‘til the end of my days.

On Saturday nights, I ride into town
On my short-legged pony with my hat pulled way down
But the boys don’t like duck girls and I can’t figure out why
No cowgirl could be more romantic than I

Singin’ quack quack yippee-yay
And quack quack yippee-yo
Get along, little duckies
Get along real slow
It’s dirty and smelly and really don’t pay
But I’ll be a duck girl ‘til the end of my days.

Thoughts: This song was sung entirely in an exaggerated Southern accent, which I thought was interesting especially because CB learned it while she was in Germany, albeit from other Americans. One thing I noticed was that the song was specific to a gender, but it led me to realize that most of the children’s folk songs I knew growing up were generally sung by girls more often than boys, even when the songs didn’t specify whether the singer was supposed to be a boy or a girl. I also feel that ducks are a common motif in children’s songs and games, like duck-duck-goose and the Five Little Ducks song. Ducks seem to be a symbol that adults associate with children because pictures of them commonly appear on baby clothes, but I suppose children also associate ducks with themselves because the songs they sing and the games they play often involve them.

Cool and Creamy

Context:

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.

 

Text:

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.”

 

Thoughts:

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.

 

2 week trek

Main piece: If you turned 18 and wanted to sign out of your Wilderness Therapy program, the running conspiracy was that you had to walk from deep in the mountains all the way down to Main Base Camp in downtown Salt Lake City. That’s about a 2 week walk, but you weren’t allowed to hitchhike or receive any assistance or supplies, because a staff member would escort you to ensure you completed the whole walk independently.

Context: The informant (WB) is originally from Atlanta, Georgia, but moved to Orem, Utah when he was 17 four years ago to receive addiction and mental health treatment. He ended up falling in love with the state and staying. WB’s father had Irish lineage and his mother was a first generation immigrant from Germany. Although he was raised Christian, he does not consider himself religious. Our conversation took place in our shared hotel room while smoking together on a family ski trip in Utah. The informant originally heard this rumor from the other boys in his Wilderness Therapy group (all of whom were minors or young adults) – it had been passed down from individuals with had been there longer to those who were newer to the program, who would then pass it onto the next batch of new kids. WB clarified that this urban legend did not end up actually being true, as when he reached the end of his stay in Wilderness, he got finally clarification from a staff member he was friendly with over whether this was true; it would’ve been “outlandish” if it were true. WB thinks this “treatment tale” came into existence because the majority of the boys in his group were there against their wills, and “when you’re in the middle of nowhere doing nothing but hiking and eating nothing but rice and beans, it’s more fun to buy into crazy stories like that rather than think about why your family sent you away.”

Personal thoughts: It’s important to note that the Wilderness Therapy program the informant attended involved spending months on end out in the wilderness, a lifestyle reminiscent of what many would consider “simpler times,” where the hustle and bustle of modern life and technology did not dictate life. Just as individuals of the past were prolific in their creation of myths and legends and tales when faced with bleak realities of mortality and suffering, WB and his group manufactured stories of their own to distract from the anguish and confusion they had to deal with without the escape of modern technology. In terms of the actual content of the tale, the outlandish idea of a difficult two week walk without help is reflective of the independence and perseverance the boys had to develop through months of hard living and involuntary treatment in the middle of nowhere. It makes sense that their form of “initiation” once you become a legal adult who is able to leave the program involves such a grueling task.

Camp Seven Hills Serial Killer

Abstract:

This piece is about a legendary serial killer that roams the woods near Camp Seven Hills in New York.

Main Piece:

“Informant: So I spent a lot of summers at a Girl Scout camp called Camp Seven Hills. And of course there were a lot of ghost stories around the fire, but every year they would tell a ghost story about a man who had wandered off from one of the neighbor farms, like right next to the camp, and wandered into the woods one night. Like a really creepy, scary, serial killer kind of man. And his favorite thing to do was to catch little girls, little Girl Scouts and kidnap and murder them. So the whole thing was never wander into the woods at night alone. They would tell this story every year.

Me: Where was this camp?

Informant: Camp Seven Hills in Western New York. I think it was to make sure we didn’t go off on our own, but it like totally freaked us all out every year.”

Context:

The subject is an adult woman who remembers her time as a child in the 1970s going to Girl Scout summer camp. She grew up in Buffalo New York and was an avid member of the Girl Scouts growing up. Camp Seven Hills is located in Erie County, New York and still functions as a Girl Scout camp today.

Interpretation:

I wonder if this legend of this Camp Seven Hills serial killer still exists today or if it has vanished from the folklore of this camp. Since this comes from the childhood of an adult, it would be interesting to compare the stories told to the young girls at this camp today and see if they are similar or very different. I think the informant was correct about the meaning behind this legend, that it would prevent girls from wandering around the woods alone or at night. Stories like this are terrifying for young girls and since it was localized to a nearby farm as the origin, it would make it more believable as well.

 

“Wherever you go, there’s always someone Jewish…”

“Wherever you go, there’s always someone Jewish.

You’re never alone when you say you’re a Jew.

So when you’re not home, and you’re somewhere kind of newish,

The odds are, don’t look far – ‘cause they’re Jewish, too.

 

Amsterdam, Disneyland, Tel Aviv – oh, they’re miles apart,

But, when we light the candles on Sabbath eve, we share in the prayer in our hearts.”

 

Context: The informant went to a Jewish summer camp in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where one of the activities was to sit in a circle with a camp counselor who could play guitar and sing as a group. “My friends and I learned all of the lyrics to this song because we thought it was so funny and misguided. Actually, one of my friends wasn’t even Jewish, but he still sang the song with us. Whenever there was silence, one of us would start singing the song. It became this inside joke.”

Interpretation: This song appears light-hearted and unifying, but it encourages Jewish children to keep within their own religion. This could be in response to the notion that Jewish people are “going extinct,” so it is beneficial to introduce children to the idea of staying within one’s religion and passing on Jewish heritage. The song mentions that Jews are diverse and spread throughout the world, and tells children to look for other Jewish people in new situations rather than being open to all kinds of people. It is a declaration of Jewish pride and unity, but also a way of encouraging children to associate with (and eventually marry) other Jewish people.